Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Day 6: Greece

Santorini, Greece
We're almost halfway through our travels, and today we're visiting Greece. In Greece, Merry Christmas is Kala Christouyenna, and in Greek it looks like this: Καλά

Christmas trees aren't traditional in Greece, but they're becoming more popular. Instead, most houses have a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire hanging across the rim. They hang a wooden cross on the wire with a little bunch of basil on it, and some water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil fresh. Once a day, someone in the family dips the cross and basil into holy water and sprinkles it around each room in the house.

This is done to keep the Killantzaroi (bad spirits) away. It's believed that these bad spirits come during the 12 day period from Christmas to Epiphany (celebrated on January 6th), and they supposedly come from the middle of the earth and get into people's houses through the chimney. They like to do mischievous things like put out fires or make milk go bad, so Greeks keep a fire burning throughout those 12 days because they believe it will keep the Killantzaroi away.

Going to a midnight mass service is very important to most Greeks, and afterwards they return home and end their Advent fast. The next day they often eat lamb or pork that's roasted in an oven or over a spit. The meat is served with a spinach and cheese dish, and yummy salads and vegetables. For dessert they might have baklava or other sweet pastries.

Fun Facts: 
*Every December a huge Christmas tree and a three-mast sailing ship are put up in Aristotleous Square in the city of Thessaloniki, which is a main stop for tourists.

*Christopsomo (Christ bread) is used as a table decoration on Christmas day. It's a round, sweet loaf and the crust is often decorated with what the family does for a living (ex. fishermen would decorate their bread with fish).

*Epiphany (also known as "The Blessings of the Waters") is celebrated on January 6th by those in the Greek Orthodox Church, and it celebrates Jesus' baptism. There are lots of events across Greece where young men dive into cold lakes, rivers or the sea to try to be the first to get a cross that was bless by a priest and thrown into the water. They believe that if you find the cross, you'll have good luck the coming year.

The three-masted ship in Thessaloniki
*"The Christmas Boat" (or karavaki in Greek) has been around for many years. The tradition goes back to when kids-especially boys-go singing kalanda (carols) in the streets on Christmas Eve. They play drums and triangles as they sing, and sometimes they'll even carry model boats that they've decorated  with gold-painted nuts. If the kids sing well, people might give them money, nuts, sweets, or even dried figs. The kids sometimes are able to fit the small treats into the model boats they carry with them.

Today people like to decorate small model wood or paper boats with lights and ornaments during the Christmas season. Traditionally the boats are placed near the door or fire with the bow pointing inwards.

*All of the above information has been taken from Wycliffe-created characters, Kate and Mack. If you would like to sign up for more children activities or learn about the book they feature in (Around the World with Kate and Mack), click on this link: http://www2.wycliffe.org/a-z

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